It’s been several days since 10,000 Londoners marched through the downtown, demanding an end to anti-Black racism. But when the Black Lives Matter hashtag stops trending on social media, will the wider community still pay attention to the movement?
London rapper Casper Marcus moved to London when he was 12 years old. Hip hop artist Sum-01 grew up here. They talked to London Morning‘s Rebecca Zandbergen about anti-Black racism in a predominately white city.
What was it like for you to walk into Victoria Park on Saturday and see so many people standing up against racism?
Sum-01: It was breathtaking. I had a lot of anxiety leading up to that day, just in relation to COVID, and I wanted to bring my kids with me. So when we got there, I was in shock. I really didn’t think more than 100 people would show up. I wasn’t expecting what I saw. It was good to see so much solidarity.
Casper: I was there with my family as well. I was surprised as well and super proud. It was a feeling of overwhelming pride. A future is going to happen; change is going to happen. I was proud of my city.
Why was it important for you to bring your children?
Sum-01: Growing up in London as mixed race, Black, people of colour — they’re going to grow up here most likely, go to school here, and it was important for me to show them what’s happening in the world right now. It’s possible for them to make change, and to get together and stand in solidarity against injustices.
Casper: I just wanted them to look back at this moment and one day look at where their parents were at the moment, and ‘oh, they’re right at the front line.’ They might not totally understand what’s going on, but I know my oldest, nine years old, she definitely gets the injustice and she’s proud of us for doing that.
What conversations have you had with your children about racism?
Casper: We’ve had a few. She experiences a bit of it. What we’ve basically discussed is that not everybody’s the same, that there are ways to discuss it. We can talk it out. Especially when you’re younger, you can really switch that whole narrative around if you just talk about it, and let other people know that we’re all human.
What has your daughter encountered?
Casper: It’s the classic playground moment where you think you know who your friends are, you think you know somebody and then you hear that N-word. Especially when you’re a kid, you don’t really know how to take it, but you know that it hurts. She got that a few times. We try to keep her educated with history and the way to treat people equally. It’s an uphill battle, but we’re willing to do it with her and our other daughter. And hopefully people like me can guide the youth artists to do the same thing with their people.
What was your reaction to George Floyd’s death?
Sum-01: To be honest, I couldn’t watch the video. I was really upset that people were sharing it on social media because of what happened to him, may he rest in peace. But definitely emotional. That reaction is always going to stay. The injustices in North America, Canada, everywhere across the globe and the anti-Black racism and anti-Indigenous racism, it’s systemic and it’s a public health crisis, and it needs to be addressed.
What has been your experience in London?
Sum-01: When we first came to London — I have this written in one of my songs — we were the only Black family in the east end. We went to Ealing Public School. My brothers and sisters, we all faced racism at a very young age. In grade two I was called the N-word by one of my classmates. It’s something that is very real for us.
How would you characterize London?
Casper: I was born in Toronto and I lived six years in Toronto, and then six years in Nova Scotia with my mom. Toronto is a melting pot, minority isn’t really a thing in Toronto, so it wasn’t as prevalent. And then Nova Scotia, it also wasn’t as prevalent. And I just noticed the first day I moved here at 12 years old, it wasn’t Kansas anymore. The first day I went to school — my (real) name is Marcus Morris — they said, ‘What do we call this guy? Obviously, we’re not going to call him the Black thing. Let’s call him the opposite, let’s call him Casper the Ghost.’ As a defence, I just stuck with that that, yeah, I’ll call myself Casper. That’s to this day, and that’s 20 years ago. It’s changing, like what I saw on Saturday, but it’s a long way to go, but at least we’re making those strides.
I didn’t know that’s where Casper comes from.
Casper: A lot of people didn’t know that. But I don’t want to make my city look…like what happens sometimes, but bring it to the light, then we can discuss it and it’s for the better.
Where do you see the future of London?
Sum-01: I’m hopeful that as long as we keep the momentum going. It’s one thing to say and post the black squares on social media and say Black Lives Matter, hashtag this and hashtag that. But where’s the action? The action needs to come down to the provincial and federal levels through education, through the school boards and keeping that conversation going on allyship, and how people, not of colour, can be allies in the workplace, in the school boards, in the classrooms and continue this and push it, and not just tuck it under the rug after a few months, after the momentum kind of dies down.
Did you have allies growing up?
Sum-01 I did. The majority of my friends were not people of colour. I contribute a lot of my friendships to white people, just growing up in London and they are still allies with me.
Are you hopeful for London, Casper?
Casper: I am. I’m very hopeful. As a Black man, being a Black man in my age category, the odds are stacked against you, however, I have some cynical Black friends who say, ‘There was a good turnout on Saturday, but as soon as the fad’s over, as soon as the trending stops, will it still continue?’ I’m trying to preach to these guys, let’s all be hopeful one step at a time. This was a good start.